Groupon Makes It Harder to Track How Well It Is Doing

Groupon will no longer display how many vouchers consumers have purchased, in an attempt to make it more difficult to guess from the outside how well its business is doing.

The Chicago company said it started testing new approaches at the end of September, and that the new methods are expected to be live across all cities in the next few weeks.

Instead of showing how many Groupons were bought, it will now show a percentage of the deals sold, ranging from .5 percent to 19.5 percent, for example. It will also be rounding off, so instead of saying “73 deals bought,” it will say “over 73 bought.”

In its run-up to an IPO, the daily deals site has been pulled apart constantly for signs as to how it is really doing. It’s safe to say that the constant analysis has driven Groupon crazy, since it is in its quiet period and has had to let these assumptions go unchallenged.

At one point, CEO Andrew Mason became so concerned about reports alleging that Groupon’s torrid growth was slowing that he wrote a message to the troops, which of course was immediately leaked to us.

Groupon explains in a blog post that the solution to this problem is more ambiguity:

“As customers, we like the counter because it indicates how popular deals are. But some clever people are using the counter to make (consistently incorrect) estimates of our total company sales, which we don’t like for the same reason you probably wouldn’t like if people tried to guess your weight all day. This change is meant to continue to reflect deal popularity while making it clearly impossible to predict our sales. We’re blogging about it to be transparent about our lack of transparency.”

Yipit, one of the companies that regularly scrapes deal information from Web sites and discloses its findings, posted its latest summary on Friday.

It reported that Groupon’s gross revenue increased 6 percent to $143.4 million in September, implying a $1.7 billion annual run rate. However, that growth is smaller than that of its nearest competitor, LivingSocial, which Yipit said was seeing its revenue grow by 32 percent to $59.4 million in September, roughly a $708 million run rate.

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